May 2013

Thanks to Paul Summers for alerting me to The Best Employee Handbook Ever.

The succinct Nordstrom statement of what the American company expected from its employees puts to shame all those long-winded, turgid piles of guff shoveled in the direction of indifferent workers. I highlighted a British example recently – the UK Civil Service Competency Framework.

Job descriptions are much the same – expanding in length and incomprehensibility over the course of the years I was in gainful employment. And of course, no ‘JD’ is now complete without a matching and interminable ‘person spec.’

It all reminds me of the old Flanders and Swann song The Gas Man Cometh:

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do! [for ‘working man’ substitute ‘HR professional of either gender’]

So how refreshing on a post-retirement ramble around the National Trust’s Flatford Mill property to come across their combined job description and recruitment advert:


Oh, and their cakes are delicious too.

Bonus point – thanks to the superb technical skill of the photographer you should also be able to see a ghostly image of the HelpGov guy lurking in the reflection behind this wonderful job ad

Tey Tsun Hang trial

The headline above from the Singapore Straits Times newspaper web site  may seem  obscure to many regular readers of the HelpGov blog. But it’s about government in the widest sense and I feel quite strongly about it.

I was alerted to it by comments on Facebook condemning both the alleged perpetrator and his victims in what was said to be a ‘sex-for-grades’ case.

On the face of it, this is the story of a 41 year-old male law professor who had sex with a 23 year-old female student, arguably a minor but salacious court case.

My initial thought was to respond to Singaporeans who commented approvingly of a guilty verdict along the lines of ‘What irks me is that the ladies always treated like they were guiltless’ and ‘Our chaps know the ladies are a contributing factor, no doubts about that.’ I was going to point out that perhaps there was an abuse here by someone who held disproportionate power over much younger students.

The way the poster of the link to the (government-owned) Straits Times had set this up meant I could not respond on his Facebook page.

A couple of clicks on Google and I was glad I didn’t because, lo and behold, as sometimes happens in that country there is an alternative narrative. It’s difficult to summarise all the in and outs of the story but they include

  • An academic who writes a book critical of the relationship between the Singapore government and the legal profession of the country
  • Failing to find a publisher in Singapore, he has it published in Hong Kong
  • The emergence shortly after of allegations that he had indeed traded ‘sex for grades’ with one or more students
  • Ambiguity about his university’s response to the allegations
  • Questioning by police that lands him in an ambulance trip to hospital
  • A trial procedure that on the face of it has a number of curious features about it.

Anyone interested in the story could do worse than read the Trial of Tsun Hang blog.

I don’t know enough to judge where the truth lies in all this but I’m glad I didn’t see the subject as merely a question of cross-cultural differences in the treatment of perpetrator and victim in sex abuse cases.